Farm Aid is returning on September 25th with an all-day show at Hartford, Connecticut’s 30,000-seat Xfinity Theatre, but board member Neil Young announced last week that he won’t be there.
“All you people who can’t go to a concert because you still don’t feel safe, I stand with you,” he wrote in a letter to fans. “I don’t want you to see me playing and think it’s safe now. I don’t want to play until you feel safe, and it is indeed, safe. My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die because they wanted to hear music and be with friends.”
The show is going on with headliners Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, John Mellencamp, Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, and many others. “While I respect Willie, John and Dave’s decisions to stick with it and play,” Young wrote. “I am not of the same mind. It is a tough call.”
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One reason it was a tough call is that Young has played every single Farm Aid since the original one back in 1985. The concert has been held annually since 1992, making it one of the most enduring charity events in rock history. Along the way, it’s raised more than $60 million for struggling farmers.
Here’s video of Young opening up his set with “Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue)” at the first Farm Aid on September 22nd, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois. During the next 35 years, no matter what Young had going on his life and career, he always knew that Farm Aid came in the fall and he always made room for it on his schedule.
Young hasn’t played in public since the 2019 incarnation of Farm Aid at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. He recently finished up recording a new album with Crazy Horse. They plan on releasing it later in the year, but any sort of live activity is unlikely until 2022, at the earliest. “Not until I knew the audience is safe,” he recently wrote to a fan asking about his touring plans. “When we are sure of that, we will look at some gigs.”
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